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article imageOp-Ed: Supernatural Carlos Santana

By Michael Terron     Jul 18, 2014 in Music
Sunday, July 20 is the birthday of one of the greatest musicians, songwriters and bandleaders of our time - Carlos Santana. No other artist in the history of multicultural American society has been as adept at blending rock, blues, tejano and jazz music.
He was born, Carlos Augusto Santana Alves, in 1947, to Jose Santana and Josefina Barragan in Autlan de Navarro, Jalisco, Mexico, the city on the southern border of California. Jose, a professional mariachi violinist, taught his son how to play the instrument at the age of five. When the family moved to Tijuana, Carlos, at the age of eight, decided to focus on playing the guitar. As a teenager in the late 1950s, he played in clubs and bars on the Tijuana Strip. In 1961, his family moved to San Francisco, with Carlos joining them the following year.
After graduating from Mission High School in 1965, he was accepted at California State University and Humboldt State University, declining both offers. . . At this time Carlos' major influences were the legendary B.B. King and Richie Valens, one of the few Hispanics to gain fame in early rock and roll.. After working as a dishwasher for several years he began his career as a full time musician. He formed the Santana Blues Band in 1966. It consisted of David Brown, on bass guitar; Marcus Malone, on percussion, and Gregg Rolie, on Hammond organ, B3 and vocals.
"First of all, the music that people call Latin or Hispanic is really African. So Black people need to get the credit for that. Number two, Latin people are very compassionate, and the music that we love is definitely Afro-rooted - whether it's Bob Marley or Afro-Cuban - because it deals with rhythms." C.S.
"It was in 1966 that Carlos gained prominence, due to a series of accidental events, all happening on the same day. He was a frequent spectator at producer Bill Graham's Fillmore West. During a Sunday matinee show, Paul Butterfield was slated to perform there but was unable to do so as a result of being intoxicated. Graham assembled an impromptu band of musicians he knew primarily through his connections with the Grateful Dead, Butterfield's own band, and the Jefferson Airplane, but he had not yet chosen all the guitarists. Santana's manager, Stan Marcum, immediately suggested to Graham that Santana join the impromptu band and Graham agreed. During the jam session, Santana's guitar playing and solo gained the notice of both the audience and Graham."
In 1969, before the release of their first album, Bill Graham arranged for them to appear at the Woodstock Music and Art Festival. The group's eleven minute instrumental - Soul Sacrifice - was one of the high points of the 3-day rock-fest. (Carlos is quoted as not remembering the performance because he had taken a dose of LSD, when it was assumed that he would not play for several hours after arriving at the show. As fate would have it, his band was bumped up on the schedule, just as the drug began to take affect.) Subsequently, the band gained an international following and signed a recording contract with Columbia Records.
Even though the debut album, Santana, reached #4 on the U.S. album charts, the group began to go through a number of changes.The original drummer, Bob Livingston, was replaced by Mike Shrieve, who had a strong background in jazz. Percussionist, Malone, convicted of manslaughter charges, was forced to quit. He was replaced by Michael Carabello (formerly with the group) and well-known Nicaraguan percussionist, Jose Chepito Areas. Already Carlos and organist, Gregg Rolie, were charting different musical courses. The latter wanted to stick with the basic hard rock sound which had precipitated the bands initial success. Carlos, on the other hand, was moving to a more jazzy, improvisational style. He had become influenced by guitarist, Gabor Szabo, trumpeter, Miles Davis, and saxophonists, Pharoah Sanders and John Coltrane.
"The 60s were a leap in human consciousness. Mahatma Gandhi, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Che Guevara, Mother Theresa - they led a revolution of conscience. The Beatles, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix created revolution and evolution themes. The music was like Dali, with many colors and revolutionary ways. The youth of today must go there to find themselves." C.S.
"In 1972, Santana became interested in the pioneering fusion band, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, and its guitarist, John McLaughlin. Aware of Santana's interest in meditation, McLaughlin introduced Santana to guru Sri Chinmoy. Chinmoy accepted them as disciples in 1973. Santana was given the name, Devadip, meaning, " the lamp, light and eye of God." Santana and McLaughlin recorded an album together, Love, Devotion, Surrender (1973), with members of Santana and The Mahavishnu Orchestra. A collaboration with John Coltrane's widow, Alice Coltrane, Illuminations, followed. The album delved into avante-garde, esoteric free jazz, Eastern Indian and classical styles, with ex-Miles Davis sidemen, Jack De Johnette and Dave Holland."
Although Carlos' 'new' music was critically acclaimed in jazz circles, many of his former fans were alienated. Consequently, Bill Graham's management company assumed responsibility for the group, with the intention of recapturing some of the earlier bluesy, streetwise sound.. The result was the 1976 Amigo album, which featured, Dance, Sister, Dance and Let It Shine. The recording received considerable airplay. The following year the band scored a hit with a remake of the 1960s Zombies song, She's Not There. Rolling Stone ran a cover story entitled, "Santana Comes Home."
In the early 1980s, Carlos began to feel that Sri Chinmoy was making too many unreasonable demands on his life. In 1973 he had married Deborah King, daughter of late blues singer/guitarist, Saunders King. Together they founded a not-for-profit organization, The Milagro (Miracle) Foundation, which provides financial aid for educational, medical and other needs for children. However, after Chinmoy refused to 'allow' them to have children of their own, Carlos and Deborah severed the relationship with the guru in 1982. He and his wife divorced in 2007, after producing three children, one of which - Salvador - became a band leader.
"In the 1980s Carlos went into the studio to record a solo album with Keith Olson and legendary R&B producer Jerry Wexler. The 1983 album Havana Moon revisits Santana's early musical experiences in Tijuana with Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love" and the title cut, Chuck Berry's "Havana Moon." The album's guests included Booker T. Jones, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Willie Nelson and even Santana's father's mariachi orchestra. Santana again paid tribute to his early rock roots by doing the film score to, La Bamba, based on the tragically short life of rock and roll legend, Richie Valens."
After another period of sagging record sales in the mid 1980s, Graham convinced Live Aid concert organizer, Bob Geldof, to allow Santana to make an appearance at the benefit. The performance was well received. . .Perhaps, the commercial pinnacle of Santana's career was when Arista Records producer, the legendary Clive Davis, signed him to record the star-studded, Supernatural. It included collaborations with Everlast, Eric Clapton, Lauren Hill, Wyclef Jean and Dave Matthews. . .
"The lead single was what grabbed the attention of both fans and the music industry. "Smooth", a dynamic cha-cha stop-start number co-written and sung by Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty, was laced throughout with Santana's guitar fills and runs. The record spent twelve weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming in the process, the last #1 single of the 1990s. The music video, set on a hot barrio street, was also very popular. Supernatural reached number one on the U.S. album charts and the follow-up single,"Maria Maria", featuring the R&B duo, The Product G&B, also hit number one, spending ten weeks there in the spring of 2000. The album eventually sold over 15 million copies in the United States, making it Santana's biggest sales success by far."
"You can take things that Jimi Hendrix took from Curtis Mayfield or from Buddy Guy, for example, because we are all children of everything, even Picasso. But if you want to stand out you have to learn to crystallize your own existence and create your own fingerprints . . . It's like someone once said: If you take from just one person, it's stealing. But take from everyone, and it's research."cC.S.
"Carlos Santana shares, with Michael Jackson,the record for most Grammy's won in one year, with eight. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998." . . . Feliz cumpleanos, hermano!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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